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Coronavirus: multiple resorts join Whistler in shutting down ski hills

Click to play video 'Whistler Blackcomb to shut down as Vail Resorts ceases operations due to coronavirus' Whistler Blackcomb to shut down as Vail Resorts ceases operations due to coronavirus
In an unprecedented move over the global COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of Whistler Blackcomb has announced it is closing all of its North American mountain resorts for at least one week starting Sunday. Our Sophie Lui has reaction from Whistler tonight.

Cypress Mountain, Mount Washington, SilverStar and Big White have joined Whistler Blackcomb in shutting down their ski hill operations in order to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Monday, North Vancouver’s Grouse and Seymour mountains also announced plans to suspend operations. Seymour will close at 5 p.m. and Grouse at 6 p.m.

Cypress announced Sunday it would close early at 4 p.m. “until further notice.”

“We did not make this decision lightly; however, our top priority is the health and well-being of our employees and guests,” the resort’s president and general manager Russell Chamberlain said in a statement on the Cypress website.

READ MORE: Whistler Blackcomb closed for the rest of the ski season due to coronavirus

The resort had been assuring visitors as late as Saturday that it was open for business, and that preventative measures including increased hand washing stations and social distancing efforts were being enforced.

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“Ultimately we feel the appropriate step right now is to be socially [responsible] and suspend operations to help mitigate any further risk of spreading the COVID-19,” Chamberlain’s statement reads.

Chamberlain said the resort anticipates heavy call volume over the next several days from pass and ticket holders, and asked for patience as staff work to respond to inquiries.

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Late Saturday, SilverStar Resort in the Okanagan announced it would suspend its operations Sunday until March 22. However, lodging and property management facilities will stay open to honour existing reservations and visitors already on site.

Click to play video 'Whistler Blackcomb to shut down as Vail Resorts ceases operations due to coronavirus' Whistler Blackcomb to shut down as Vail Resorts ceases operations due to coronavirus
Whistler Blackcomb to shut down as Vail Resorts ceases operations due to coronavirus

“This is an unusual and dynamic situation, and because we continue to believe outdoor mountain recreation provides a meaningful escape to nature, we will take this time to reassess our approach for the rest of the season,” the resort said in a statement.

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The moves come hours after Vail Resorts announced it was shuttering all its North American ski hills, including Whistler Blackcomb, starting Sunday until March 22.

That closure followed assurances from B.C.’s ski hills and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that resorts will stay open and should be visited while large, indoor gatherings are discouraged.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: SilverStar to close, but it’s business as usual at other Okanagan ski resorts

Other ski hills in the Lower Mainland and Okanagan, meanwhile, are staying open as usual.

Grouse Mountain and Mt. Seymour Resort both told Global News Sunday that they were open for business while promoting enhanced health and safety measures on site.

Big White Ski Resort announced it will close as of 3:30 p.m. Monday.

“The last six hours have made it clear that no matter what procedures we put in place, we cannot guarantee the safety of our staff, guests and residents while adhering to the mandatory reduction of group gatherings,” said president and CEO Peter Plimmer.

Apex Mountain Resort, meanwhile, encouraged skiers Saturday to “enjoy the great outdoors.”

All ski hills that remain open say they are doing everything they can to follow provincial guidelines limiting gatherings to 250 people, including reducing seating capacity in cafeterias and restaurants.

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—With files from Doyle Potenteau